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Sprout CEO Cindy Whitehead leaves company

Cindy Whitehead, CEO of Sprout Pharmaceuticals in Raleigh, which raised about $50 million this year.
Cindy Whitehead, CEO of Sprout Pharmaceuticals in Raleigh, which raised about $50 million this year. hlynch@newsobserver.com

Sprout Pharmaceuticals CEO Cindy Whitehead has left the Raleigh company less than four months after it was acquired by Valeant Pharmaceuticals for $1 billion in cash.

Whitehead led Sprout during its successful effort to get its female libido pill, Addyi, approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Valeant agreed to buy Sprout in August just two days after the FDA approved the drug, which is the first in the world approved to boost women’s sex drive.

Laurie Little, a Valeant spokeswoman, said Whitehead would continue to work as a consultant to Sprout.

“Having built a team to take Addyi to market, we mutually agreed that it was the right time to transition to new leadership for the next phase of global commercialization,” Little said.

Whitehead couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Little said Sprout will now be led by two other executives, Tracy Valorie and Ray Larwood.

Sprout’s parent company, Valeant, has been under intense scrutiny in recent months for raising drug prices and for its relationship with a mail-order pharmacy. The company’s stock is down 64 percent since early August.

Questions have also been raised about the potential market for Addyi, which became available on Oct. 17.

In the first month the drug was on the market just 227 women got prescriptions, Bloomberg News reported last month, citing Bloomberg Intelligence data.

Sprout remained headquartered in Raleigh after it was acquired, and the company has been rapidly growing its workforce here.

Whitehead co-founded Sprout with her husband, Bob Whitehead. The couple acquired the rights to flibanserin, the active drug in Addyi, while they were running the Durham company Slate. They renamed the company, which had moved to Raleigh, Sprout in 2011.

David Bracken: 919-829-4548, @brackendavid

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